Bed of Roses

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Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
(Berkley, $16.00, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-23368-9
As anyone who has read my reviews well knows, I am a real fan of Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb.  I am in awe of her ability to sustain a high level of writing skill given her amazingly prolific output.  She clearly writes because she can’t not write; certainly she has no financial incentive to keep turning out book after book.  (The publicity blurb for Savor the Moment notes that there are 400 million – 400 MILLION – of her books in print.)  Now, I have probably given more Roberts’ books the coveted “keeper” status than all other authors combined.  But every now and then, Roberts writes a story that is merely acceptable.  (I don’t think she can write a bad book.)  Savor the Moment is such a book.

Now, one of a reviewer’s responsibilities is to describe the setting of the novel under consideration.  I decided that, rather than wracking my brains, I would simply cite my review of the previous book in this series: 

“One of Roberts’ favorite devices is to offer three or four linked stories. [Savor the Moment is the third in her new series], “The Bride Quartet,” the chronicle of four long-time friends who together own Vows, an up and coming bridal service in tony Greenwich, Connecticut.  Parker Brown, Emma Grant, Mackenzie Elliot and Laurel McBane are, indeed, “best friends forever.” When they were elementary school students, they played make-believe wedding all the time.  As adults, they have been fortunate to have the opportunity to use their talents to turn their obsession into a thriving business.

Parker is the organizer and the owner of the lovely estate which provides a perfect setting for perfect weddings.  Mac is the photographer, whose gorgeous pictures make memories for a lifetime.  Emma is a florist, who can create beauty out of a leaf of kale.  Laurel is a pastry chef par excellence, whose wedding cakes and desserts are as beautiful as they are delicious.

Visions in White was Mac’s romance and the brash photographer fell under the spell of a charming academic, Carter, whose kindness and wit overcame her fears of commitment.  Bed of Roses [was] Emma’s story.” The second novel was a “friends into lovers” tale, as Emma discovered an unexpected attraction to architect, Jack Cooke, the best friend of Parker’s brother, Delaney (Del) Brown.  Jack had been part of the circle of friends since college and the developing relationship threatened the groups dynamics, especially given Jack’s commitment phobia.  All worked out well in the end.

Savor the Moment is Laurel’s story and its comparative weakness has two sources.  First, like its predecessor, it is sort of a “friends into lovers”  tale, in this case the romance of Laurel and Del, so it seems repetitive.  Second, there is precious little real conflict in the story, so the romance doesn’t really engage the reader.  Let me explain.

If Emma and Jack had known each other for years before their love bloomed, Laurel and Del have known each other for decades.  The major difference is that Laurel has loved Del forever, but had always pushed her feelings aside.  Delaney Brown of the really rich and prominent Browns seemed out of reach for the daughter of a disgraced tax cheat who had worked her way through culinary school by working in restaurants.  Even if Parker was her best friend, Del was simply an impossible dream.  That he is a regular part of her life and that, given his sense of responsibility for Parker and her friends, he tends to “take care” of Laurel, ultimately pushes her over the edge.

One night, Laurel gives into an impulse and gives Del a piece of her mind and a passionate kiss.  Del’s response is, “Wow, where did that come from and where might it go?” So the two decide to see, to explore their feelings – without sex – for thirty days.  Now this provides some fun sexual tension but ultimately, there is no real conflict.  Yes, Laurel is afraid to admit the depth and longevity of her love and still feels that Del’s wealth and social status might be a barrier to a happy ending, but the reader is well aware that the almost too perfect Del would never be so crass as to be anything but the perfect gentleman.

A major element of the “Bride Quartet”  is the close friendship between the four women and their shared lives.  I noted in the previous review that this “friendship is central to the series and, in its intimacy, may be as unlikely as any other aspect of a fairy tale.” I admit that the willingness of the four to “share” every aspect of their lives is approaching the limits of my comfort zone.  The fact that Del is Parker’s brother may explain this or maybe it’s a generational thing.  The betting pool about when Del and Laurel would finally do the deed seemed a bit over the top.

Yet despite my feeling that Savor the Moment is not vintage Roberts, it still has many enjoyable moments.  I will undoubtedly read the final installment of the series when it reaches the shelves next November.  I do want to know how it all turns out.   

--Jean Mason

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